Toskala foils Philly

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

After earning first star honours last night, Maple Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala skated across the ice and handed his stick to a young fan.

Obviously, the Finn isn't very superstitious. After all, that stick served him very well in a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at the ACC.

It was the second game in a row that Toskala earned first star honours (he stood on his head in a 2-1 OT loss in Ottawa on Thursday) and that has made head coach Ron Wilson a very happy man.

Prior to the past two games, Toskala had been inconsistent, allowing weak goals with the team either struggling to come back in games or attempting to hold leads.

But last night he made 28 saves, including a spectacular glove save on Simon Gagne at the side of the net with John Mitchell in the penalty box and just under seven minutes remaining in the contest.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak for Toronto, now 8-9-6.

"The last two games his focus has been so much better. He's seeing the puck because he's being aggressive," Wilson said. "I don't know why, but he was passive before, just kind of sitting back and getting deep in the net. Now he's at the top of crease. So, kudos to him for really working on his game and getting it back."

For his part, Toskala said he has been feeling great all season, the only difference lately being that he is coming out from his crease a little further to challenge the shooters.

"The puck just seems to be hitting me now," Toskala said. "But I am trying to play a little more aggressive and it seems to be working."

The other keys to the win in front of 19,387 spectators was matching the usually-intimidating Flyers hit for hit. Also, Toronto's aggressive forechecking frustrated the visitors from the City from Brotherly Love. Led by Niklas Hagman, who played a solid two-way game, the Leafs also were perfect on the penalty kill, shutting down Philadelphia on four opportunities.

Nik Antropov led the attack with a goal and an assist while newcomer Lee Stempniak scored his first goal since being traded to Toronto for Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo earlier this week. Dominic Moore and Pavel Kubina scored the other Leafs goals, while Mike Richards had two for Philadelphia.

The Flyers, playing without leading scorer Daniel Briere, who is out with a left groin strain, had won six in a row before falling in overtime to Carolina on Friday and then to the Leafs last night.

Prior to the game, new Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke addressed his team and the basic message was, just relax and do your job. It seemed to work as the Leafs came out flying. Wilson said his players have been inundated with "dumb questions" from the media regarding Burke's arrival.

"That they're all going to be traded in a week," Wilson said, as an example. "Brian assured everybody that wasn't going to happen, and that was the best thing he could have done.

"He also talked about all the Euros that he's drafted, all the (Euros) he had in Vancouver and allayed any propaganda coming from the Fifth Estate," Wilson continued, suggesting the media has portrayed Burke as a GM who disdains European players.

"That's awful hard for people to play when they've been listening to this for two or three weeks."

The Leafs now embark on a three-game West Coast swing, starting with a game tomorrow night in Los Angeles, followed by San Jose on Tuesday and finally Phoenix on Thursday, before returning home.


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